WRC - Rally Estonia - Pre-event press conference | Federation Internationale de l'Automobile

WRC - Rally Estonia - Pre-event press conference

14.07.22

Transcript of the pre-event press conference organised by the FIA for the 2022 Rally Estonia on July 14, 2022.

2022 WRC - Rally Estonia - Ott Tänak (Hyundai Shell Mobis WRT) speaking to media representatives (photo Nikos Katikis / DPPI)

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Hyundai Shell Mobis World Rally Team – Ott Tänak (EST), Hyundai i20 N Rally1
M-Sport Ford World Rally Team – Craig Breen (IRL), Ford Puma Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Esapekka Lappi (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1
Toyota Gazoo Racing WRT – Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), Toyota GR Yaris Rally1

Q:
Kalle, we are back to the scene of your first WRC victory. How do you look back at that victory and what do you think you have learnt in the last 12 months?
KR:
I think it’s impossible to pick anything up, but for sure we have had a lot of new situations after that, which made us stronger and gave us new experiences.

Q:
What is your target for this weekend, targeting the top step again?
KR:
Of course we always target that, this one and Finland should be fairly good for me, so we will try to get as much points as possible.

Q:
Some small changes to the route this year and your giant-killing stage from Saturday morning now kicks us off on Friday. Happy that things are still very familiar? How much will the rain change the surface here do you think?
KR:
Not too much, we have some sections in another direction, new notes for that. But, overall, it’s similar to last year, we should know what’s coming.

Q:
Last year, you set the fastest time by being 10 seconds quicker than anyone else on the first long stage. Is that going to be possible this year?
KR:
We will see it tomorrow morning. Last year It was a fully new stage, new pacenotes and everything. This year everyone knows the stage much better, so it won’t be easy to repeat.

Q:
When at home, do you ever think of the championship race?
KR:
I haven’t been thinking too much, usually I don’t think rallying at home so much or not at all. It has been working well so far.

Q:
Esapekka, your pace on gravel has been proved already this year. Now the first of the super-fast gravel events start – how confident are you heading here, bearing in mind that you missed this event last year?
EP:
Definitely the most positive thing of our season has been that our speed has been good, but we need to also finish a rally.

Q:
How was your pre-event test? How many kilometres did you cover?
EP:
We had a bit of work to do, because we haven’t developed this car too much on fast roads, only the first days when the [car] development started in Finland, the rest was in Europe. We managed pretty well to find reasonable settings. I’m pretty happy, I tried to improve some things for the second pass today, but it’s okay.

Q:
You have added a new pacenote, what does it mean?
EP:
You can’t really see where the corner is turning, I actually copied from him [Kalle]. If I could also copy his driving I would be very happy.

Q:
Ott, home event for you and an event where you have had great success in the past. There are a few changes this year, with the addition of some more technical sections. What do you think of these areas?
OT:
Let’s see. Difficult to say, some places have quite a new surface. In the recce, it looked quite solid and hopefully it stays like this as well. Other than that, maybe a few new sections I remember, one was quite long between the trees which was a bit more special one. Other than that, nothing too different.

Q:
How are you feeling this time around, are you prepared to fight for the top step of the podium?
OT:
No doubt it’s nice to be on a smooth surface since a long time, last we were in Sweden where it was purely about performance and driving on the limit. The weather is playing a big factor here, which will make it a bit more tricky in places. Playing field should be quite equal like this.

Q:
You mentioned after the win in Sardinia that there was still some work to do on the car – how much further are the team along with that? Do you feel you have a car that can win this weekend?
OT:
We have some fights on ourselves, we’ve been working hard in many areas, overall we didn’t have the preparation we were hoping for, we cancelled some tests and missed some test days, so not fully prepared. This morning we were on the pace, now we were able to check the data and do some further steps before the rally starts and hopefully still be on the pace for the rally.

Q:
How did shakedown feel this morning?
OT:
It was not so bad, was quite wet to start with, but still the grip was quite consistent so in the end the feeling was quite okay.

Q:
Craig, two second place finishes at this event. This seems to be an event that suits you. How good does it feel to come back to an event where you have competed at the last few years?
CB:
For some reason, the last couple of seasons these profile events have suited us. Obviously completely different to what we have at home, narrow and comfy Tarmac roads. If you only do these events, you only get good results on the events you are doing. We saw in Sardinia that finally on a more difficult gravel rally we also have good pace. For sure I enjoy these rallies and finally we go to events where I can feel relaxed and comfortable, I know the stages, unlike Portugal, Sardinia and Kenya, which were, in some aspects, almost completely new for me.

Q:
What do you think, can you aim for the top step of the podium or is that just outside pressure?
CB:
We will try to do the same as every year: go flat out. If you don’t put your best foot forward in the beginning, you basically get spat out in the back. It’s a strange rally in that aspect, you just have to be on it from the first kilometre. We’ll try our best, it’s one of those rallies that brings ultimate pleasure, driving these flowing, jumping roads at high speed is a pleasure.

Q:
Do you feel you’ve changed your mindset after Sardinia?
CB:
Maybe in Safari. I’m just trying to be more relaxed, I was so wound up on just getting good results, which made important detail things slip by. We’re just going to try to enjoy, like we did in Sardinia and Safari as well, to be honest. Less things to worry here, but just keep the foot down.

Questions from the floor:
 
Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE)
Kalle, you are first on the road and it might be raining, what does it mean for you?
KR:
I think being first in the rain should be better for us. I hope tomorrow the conditions are good, a bit more even.

FIA WRC2 CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Egon Kaur (EST), Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
Miko Marczyk (POL), Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo
Hayden Paddon (NZL), Hyundai i20 N Rally2

Q:
Egon, you are the man with the most experience here at your home event, competing every year here. How much of an advantage do you feel it gives you this weekend?

EK:
Not sure myself, but if the statistics say so. For example, Hayden can contribute that the rally has changed quite a lot in recent years, advantage wise it’s not that much anymore. I think it’s a highlight that we aim to overdo this weekend by having a better result.

Q:
What have you been doing to prepare for this event?
EK:
Season-wise we have been doing the Finnish championship, with similar fast and demanding roads. Before the rally, we learned some of the stages from video and with two days of testing.

Q:
You have competed here before in the rain. What does it do to the surface here?
EK:
The surface will depend on the stages we will drive, if they have new sections or not and how they hold up.

Q:
What do you think is the toughest part of the weekend?
EK:
I think tomorrow morning will be the toughest challenge. Really technical, but also with familiar places. The new section tomorrow morning will be the tricky one.

Q:
Hayden welcome back to the WRC! Two weeks ago you were competing on the ERC-counting Rally Liepāja in Latvia and getting to grips with the Hyundai i20 N Rally2. How did it feel in shakedown? Do you feel that Latvia was a good warm up for this event?
HP:
Obviously quite early to say, the team had a massive week last week, we changed everything on the car and we came here blind with no testing, straight into the rally with a whole new setup. In shakedown, it was difficult to see with the conditions, but we’re reasonably confident about where we’re going and we’ll take it step by step.

Q:
There have been a few changes to the route since you were here last in 2018, what are your thoughts on the stages?
HP:
In recce, there was one stage was familiar. I remember the stages being wide and fast, but now it’s very technical. Still fast, but quite challenging.

Q:
What are your objectives out there?
HP:
To enjoy ourselves and make improvements. We’re not here to speak at the front at all, not putting that pressure on me. These guys are just crazy fast and with experience from last year, at the end we will just do our own thing.

Q:
What do you think about the stages tomorrow and how will you approach them?
HP:
The first one will need high commitment, second one will have some very narrow sections. Challenging, but depends on how we wake up and need to do a good job. Nice to be on this side of the world, competition here is on another level. The things that were normal three to four years ago is now lost and to come back now you need to build up that momentum again.

Q:
Miko, a successful home win on the fast gravel stages of Rally Poland within ERC is where we saw you compete last. How much will that result give you confidence for this event?
MM:
Rally Poland was good for us for many reasons, specially after Portugal and Sardinia, where we had to survive. We found some speed in Poland, our home event, and it was a good place to show speed, which we managed. It was a pleasure for us to win our first ERC rally. For sure, Rally Estonia is something different, as all WRC2 events this year. It will be very fast and it’s important to have knowledge about the stages. Next year, we can be in the competition.

Q:
This is your first time competing in Estonia, what are your thoughts on the stages? Do you feel they will suit you?
MM:
They are really nice. Speed level is quite similar to Rally Poland, but the road is better prepared for rally cars. Still, it is a little bit more difficult, but in total it’s more similar with the driving style, to push and be confident in 5th gear corners. We will also be in Rally Finland, it’s my dream to start on these fast rallies.

Q:
Who has been your mentor, who gives you golden tips on how to tackle this rally?
MM:
SRT has good experience and also [Alexey] Lukyanuk, they are working here with us. We have also some contacts with [Mads] Østberg, who is supporting me. In practice, I need to use this knowledge and also make good pacenotes. We are developing, it was the fourth time for me in Poland and it was a bit of a holiday there for me, now here it’s learning again because every corner is new for me.

Questions from the floor:
 
Kaspar Ruus, Delfi (EST)
How important is it for you to get a good result from Estonia and Finland?
EK:
Every result is important, our aim is to go for the top and that’s what we are here to do. We have had pressure in Finland, but we are used to do that now and the main thing is to do a proper job here.

FIA WRC3 CHAMPIONSHIP / FIA JUNIOR WRC CHAMPIONSHIP

Present:
Jon Armstrong (GBR), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Sami Pajari (FIN), Ford Fiesta Rally3
Starter Energy Racing – Robert Virves (EST), Ford Fiesta Rally3

Q:
Jon, you continue to lead the FIA Junior WRC Championship as we head into Estonia. You were second here last, is one better the target this time?
JA:
It’s going to be a difficult weekend, conditions are quite unpredictable. Last year I had a good result here in a 2WD car, now in JWRC we got a 4WD Rally3 car so obviously you have to maximise that, get a good rhythm and a feeling in the stages. Shakedown was okay, but still not 100 per cent comfortable with everything. Hopefully tomorrow everything will click into place, get a good rhythm and the best result possible. For sure we just need to get points on the board because it’s very important to be in a good position for Greece, where it’ll be a bit of a lottery.

Q:
Four-wheel drive machinery this year within the Junior WRC, how much of an improvement has that been and what does it mean for repeat events? Changing notes etc?
JA:
I think it doesn’t change too much, you just have to be careful not to detail the speed but rather the angle of the corner, be as precise as possible. If you do them correctly, then you don’t have to correct them too much between cars. Just making sure everything is precise and correct so we can know where the corner is going to go.

Q:
How did the car feel out on the shakedown, on a wet road?
JA: The road starts to rut up and get destroyed quicker. In terms of grip, it wasn’t that bad. Whenever the gravel is wet, it doesn’t change my approach compared to Tarmac. Obviously it will be difficult to see in torrential rain.

Q:
Robert, we saw a great run from you within the ERC in the Rally3 in Poland where you finished inside the overall top 10. How much has that positive experience helped with the preparation for this weekend?
RV:
Poland was really nice and really enjoyable. I haven’t got any testing before this rally, so I hope Poland was good preparation and in terms of English notes I hope I won’t have any issues. It felt quite natural already there and we had some time to adjust them, hopefully it’s going to work out.

Q:
What are your thoughts on the changes to the stages this yea?
RV:
They are not looking too easy, but it’s the same for everybody and it’s going to make it kind of interesting. Here you don’t have much advantage in some sections so it will be more about pacenotes and trusting them.

Q:
Home events are special, but do they also bring added pressure?
RV:
Not really, I think, it’s rally like any other so you can’t be thinking about things like this. Nobody can feel really secure.

Q:
How do you feel about your chances in the championship?
RV:
I think it’s quite open still, as we saw anything can happen. No one can feel really secure.

Q:
Last year’s JWRC winner on Rally Estonia and currently third in the championship standings. How important is a repeat performance of last year’s victory this weekend? What do you think of this rally?
SP:
Really nice rally, I like it quite a lot, similar to what we have in Finland, fast and flowing with a lot of jumps. I also like the atmosphere also, really nice to be here.

Q:
How are you feeling championship-wise now?
SP: The beginning of our championship wasn’t good, but like Robert said, it’s still quite open. If we get at least some points, it will be good. I think it will be open until the final corner of the final stage. Still a long way to go.

Q:
In other rallies you have to protect the car, but what about this rally?
SP: We still have some deep ruts and big jumps, where you have to look how fast you go, most of the time you can push maximum and that’s really nice. Personally, I prefer this.

Questions from the floor:
 
Bo Christer Bofeldt, Worldrally.se (SWE)

Robert, your second rally with a Swedish co-driver. How are you feeling?
RV:
Same as in Poland, it worked quite well. I don’t see any reason why we should have problems here. We should be more prepared with the notes, we will manage it. Poland was first time for me with English notes and for Julia it was the second time.


Can we see you more in WRC?
SP:
If you want to go forward in your career, you need to make some steps. Not easy to say what is going to happen, but this year has been really good. We have done rallies in WRC3 and something with WRC2, that’s what we are aiming for in the future. At the moment, I don’t know what’s going on.